I was delighted to hear that the Nobel Peace Prize has gone to two people fighting to end sexual violence rather than to a golf enthusiast with bog roll on his shoes who likes to publicly mock those who say they are victims of sexual violence. Restores faith, y’know?
Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad were selected over Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un to win this year’s prize “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”.
Mukwege is a gynaecologist who, despite threats to his own life, has looked after thousands of people who have been sexually assaulted in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Murad is a 25-year-old Yazidi woman who was kidnapped by Islamic State militants and held as a sex slave. She also has the astounding bravery to talk about it. I watched her interview with Sarah Montague, not an easy thing to do but when a woman has been through such dementedly horrific experiences (made all the more maddening when you know she is just one of thousands of Yazidi women who are considered “spoils of war”) and is brave enough to tell people about it, listening is frankly, the least we could do.
In the interview she describes how Isis dehumanised them, a tried and tested way of making folk do despicable things and for those around them to stomach it. “Normalising” brutality is the favoured way leaders have to make their followers turn a blind eye.
At the same time, President Trump is valiantly doing his best to, in his own corner of the world, crank up his on war on compassion, to dehumanise victims of assault, in order serve himself and his tribe. At a rally, he mocked Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexually abusing her while they were at a party 36 years ago. “This is not comparable with the plight of the Yazidi people!” I hear alt-right keyboard warriors cry out as they froth at the mouth and raise their arms up to block out the light. OK. But, “his attitude towards sexual abuse is nowhere near as bad as as Isis’s” really shouldn’t be the way you big up your leader. There should be no sexual abuse pecking order.
Trump may not capture young girls and women and use them as sex slaves, but, by laughing at Ford, he gave a message to all women and girls that he doesn’t care about us. He doesn’t care about what is done to your bodies without your consent. The most powerful man in the world will laugh at you if you say anything so really, just shut up.
Hold on, I need to repeat what happened because I don’t think it’s sunk in even with myself fully yet. The president of the United States of America stood on a podium, at a rally, and mocked a woman for telling her story of being sexually assaulted and everybody laughed and applauded.
There isn’t a Nobel Prize for Utterly Sordid Bastardry so how he got a nomination in the first place is puzzling.
Trump could not have mocked someone’s account of sexual abuse in the first week of his candidacy. He and the culture he represents have built up to this and they are still building.
From the whole “locker room talk” outrage, these compassion killers have relentlessly discredited and sought to humiliate anyone who has stood up for victims of abuse and discrimination. Trump has foot soldiers in the shape of YouTubers and bloggers who are sent out to repeat the mantras of “snowflake”, “man-hater” and “feminazi” to belittle those who stand up for victims.
The trick they have played is to make their followers believe that they are somehow the underdogs and these awful feminists who just can’t handle a bit of simple rape and sexual assault, are ruining things for everyone. It works. The relentlessness of Trump’s Trumpeteers has paid off. Al Franklin resigned after allegations of sexual abuse and at a rally in his home town of Minnesota, Trump said he “folded like a wet rag”. Stepping down after abuse allegation used to be regarded as the only decent thing to do. Now it’s “weak”.
That’s troubling. But you know what else works? Protest. Taking to the streets and waving placards in huge numbers. Comedian Amy Schumer joined an anti-Kavanaugh protest, and has been trashed and derided by the Trumpy clan. Displays of solidarity rattle them and send them into hate-overdrive because it works. If they thought the anti-Kavanaugh protesters were shouting in the wind they wouldn’t trouble themselves to mobilise.
In interviews, Murad has said that her captors told her that her people are “infidels” and so deserve what happens to them. That they do not deserve mercy.
In the Trump culture, being merciless has become a virtue. Those who are brave enough to tell their stories of abuse are “hysterical”. Speaking up against abuse and atrocities is seen as a weakness and those who do this must be mocked and humiliated. After enduring Amy Schumer’s protest presence being top of the news for a day, Trump took to Twitter and called the abuse survivors who pleaded with Jeff Flake in the lift to listen to them “paid professionals”. No proof. Just his word that they are lying. And he remains in office. This is not about being a liberal or a conservative.
The Nobel Prize today awarded those who put themselves on the line to help others without ever seeking fame or financial gain, while a billionaire who lost out continues to shame the victims of the kind of crimes the likes of Dr Mukwege and Nadia Murad seek to eradicate, and is allowed to continue to mislead his country. Get out the felt tips and make more placards Amy, we are in it for the long haul.
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